Bihar: Maize Farmers Hoping to get Good Returns This Summer
Patna: After two bad years, Ramlakhan Mandal, a maize farmer, hopes to make a decent profit this summer as maize prices in the local market are good. Local traders are offering Rs 2,000/quintal, while the rate at big grain markets is Rs 2,100-2,200/quintal. This comes as a sign of relief for Mandal and thousands of other farmers in the maize and corn hub of the Seemanchal and Koshi region in Bihar.
Maize's demand is high in the country this year after two years of COVID pandemic, and agents of exporters are eyeing to purchase more given the rising demand for maize in the international market because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Mandal, a resident of Chandragaon village under Baisi block of Purnea district, recalled selling his produce at a low rate of Rs 1100/quintal last year to a local trader.
"Lockdown resulted in low demand, and untimely heavy rains badly hit us in 2020 and 2021. It was a big loss despite bumper harvest of maize".
Another maize farmer Tirloki Das from Murliganj in the Madhepura district said the distress sale caused a significant loss during the COVID pandemic due to low demand.
"I am sure to make a decent profit by selling corn due to prevailing high rates."
Similarly, Sanjeev Kumar, who owns five bighas of land in Tulsia village in Madhepura district, said in 2019, summer maize price was between Rs 1,800-2,200 and had come down to between Rs 900-1,050 in 2020.
"This proved a major setback because many farmers increased corn cultivation given the high rate."
After putting in months of hard labour and heavy investment, Mandal and Das expect a good return from "yellow gold", as corn is locally known.
As per reports from grain markets spread in different districts in the region, maize farmers have been getting high prices for their produce since early this month. For instance, in the Sonbarsa grain market in the Saharsa district, maize is selling at Rs 2150/quintal.
At Semapur grain market in Katihar district, maize was selling at Rs 2200-2250 on Wednesday and Thursday.
The maize price at the Gulab Bagh grain market in Purnea is over Rs 2100/quintal.
With maize harvesting going on and set to speed up in the coming days after IMD's message of early monsoon spread, farmers are working hard to harvest by the end of May or early June.
In recent years, the flood-prone Seemanchal region and the Koshi region have emerged as a hub of maize cultivation. According to official data, maize has become the primary crop for farmers in the Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, and Katihar districts of Seemanchal. Madhepura, Saharsa, Supaul, and Khagaria districts of Koshi have suffered from the same phenomenon. Maize is also cultivated on a large scale by farmers in Bhagalpur and Samastipur districts.
Thousands of farmers opted to grow maize in place of jute, wheat and rice a few years ago, as it is a cash crop; high in demand and gives good returns.
Mahendra Yadav, convenor of Koshi Nav Nirman Manch (KNNM), said maize growers are not getting MSP for their crops and are left at the mercy of traders who exploit them.
"We have been demanding MSP for maize farmers like paddy and wheat growers. But the government has ignored us till date," he added.
Yadav had filed a PIL in the Patna High Court in June last year, seeking a direction from the state government to procure maize at MSP from farmers. The court refused to issue any direction in the matter.
Unlike paddy and wheat, which the state government procures directly from farmers through Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS), it does not buy maize. Hence, there is no minimum support price (MSP) for maize farmers in Bihar. They are deprived of MSP and are exploited by traders as a result, he said.
According to officials from the state agriculture department, nearly 75% of the total maize from Bihar is grown in the Seemanchal and Koshi regions.
A decade ago, maize was grown on a small scale. With high yields, high demand, and a good profit, more farmers took to cultivating maize. Village after village in the two regions switched from paddy and wheat to maize.
The latest Bihar Economic Survey report ( 2021-22) said that Bihar is a major maize producer in the country.
A prominent trader at Gulab Bagh grain market said best quality maize or corn are purchased by big traders and MNCs and sent outside, besides local purchasers.
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